The fallout from UFC Vegas 34 is going to be interesting to watch. Jared Cannonier, who entered the event as the No. 3 ranked fighter in the middleweight division, likely held onto that ranking with a unanimous decision victory over Kelvin Gastelum. In an ideal world, the win would have possibly set Cannonier up for a UFC title fight against the winner of the expected bout between champion Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker. However, Cannonier, who has been with the UFC for 12 fights, told UFC commentator Daniel Cormier that he might not be able to wait for that big fight because, “I’m broke.”
Cannonier’s blunt assessment of UFC pay should be the primary topic of conversation for at least a few days, but thanks to the manner in which the UFC controls the message and the speed in which it moves from one event to the next, Cannonier’s words will fade quickly.
Dana White and the UFC should be the biggest loser of Saturday night, but we’ve been down this road before and we know White and the UFC never truly lose.
Read on for the winners and losers from UFC Vegas 34.
Jared Cannonier: Jared Cannonier fought five rounds for the first time in the UFC on Saturday night and he looked good in defeating Kelvin Gastelum in that bout. Cannonier did not fade. He kept his wits. He didn’t rush in and try to force a finish. Cannonier fought smart and calculated in bouncing back from a broken arm and loss to Robert Whittaker. Cannonier’s win was not a spectacular one, but in a division that lacks a great deal of depth it should be enough to keep him at the No. 3 spot in the rankings, which is where he began the night.
Mark O. Madsen: Here’s what happened in the life of Mark O. Madsen since his last fight: Two surgeries on his jaw, tested positive for COVID-19, his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and he had to move from his home after a black mold infestation. To say things have been rough for the Madsen’s would be an understatement. Madsen put those trials and tribulations behind him for 15 minutes and got himself a split decision victory over Clay Guida in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 34.
Saidyokub Kakhramonov: Saidyokub Kakhramonov took his fight against Trevin Jones on extremely short notice and came in heavy at weigh-ins, but he looked good in getting a late submission victory. For someone who had little time to prepare for a UFC fight, Kakhramonov’s cardio held up and he outworked Jones, who looked overmatched from the start of this bout, which was contested at a catchweight of 138.5 pounds.
Vinc Pichel: A 38-year-old MMA fighter is not supposed to improve and move up the rankings, especially at lightweight, but it seems as if Vinc Pichel is the exception to that rule. With a win over the 29-year-old Austin Hubbard at UFC Vegas 34, Pichel is now on a three-fight winning streak. Pichel is a tough competitor and one of the more powerful strikers at lightweight and his cardio and movement are also top notch. Pichel might not earn a spot in the top-15 with his win on Saturday, but he is a fighter who will give any opponent a tough go.
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval: The talk before this flyweight scrap was that the winner would be next in line for a title shot, and Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Royval did their best to turn that talk into reality. In a fast-paced battle with no real down time, Pantoja and Royval put together an enjoyable scrap that was tiring to watch. Royval did his best to wear out Pantoja, but Pantoja kept his cool and secured a rear-naked choke submission victory in the second stanza.
Alexandre Pantoja: After his win over Brandon Royval, Alexandre Pantoja addressed 125-pound champ Brandon Moreno by pointing out the fact that he has two wins over the champ. Pantoja’s made his callout respectfully in that he said he believed those setbacks helped Moreno to improve on his way to earning UFC gold.
Austin Lingo: Austin Lingo had a rough first round against Luis Saldana. Saldana hurt Lingo with his striking, but MMA is a sport where toughness and tenacity can play a big role, and Lingo had an excess of both. He outworked the fading Aldana in the second and third rounds and earned himself a nice win.
Brian Kelleher: Brian Kelleher seemed to have a plan against Domingo Pilarte. That plan was to close the distance, score a takedown, and then beat up Pilarte on the ground. That’s what he did for most of the three round contest. It wasn’t flashy, but it was effective and earned Kelleher an impressive one-sided victory.
Josiane Nunes: Josiane Nunes made the most of her UFC debut. Nunes did not have the height nor reach of her opponent, Bea Malecki, but that didn’t matter because she had no fear and a ton of aggression. Nunes walked right into danger and before Malecki could react, Nunes attacked with an onslaught of head strikes, and scored an impressive knockout win. Nunes went a bit heavy on the head strikes when the body was open, but it all worked out for her in the end. This was the kind of UFC debut fighters dream about.
William Knight: I’ll be honest, William Knight does not have good striking defense. He keeps his hands low and chin up while he backs up. However, he might not need good defense if he knocks folks out like he knocked out Fabio Cherant at UFC Vegas 34. He barely put anything behind the left that finished Cherant, but it ended the fight in impressive fashion. The amount of power Knight possesses is frightening.
Ignacio Bahamondes: Ignacio Bahamondes ate a lot of jabs from Roosevelt Roberts throughout their lightweight fight, but outside of getting cut up from those blows, Bahamondes never took his foot off the gas. He pushed Roosevelt back for most of the contest and controlled the octagon. His striking was more powerful and varied and he did an excellent job with his takedown defense. Bahamondes was most likely going to leave the octagon with a decision win, but with less than 10 seconds left in the scrap, Bahamondes put Roberts to sleep with a kick that should see him in the running for “Knockout of the Year.”
Ramiz Brahimaj: Ramiz Brahimaj had not fought for nearly a year following a loss to Max Griffin in his UFC debut. Brahimaj looked excellent in positively dismantling Sasha Palatnikov. Brahimaj was calm and cool and took advantage of every opportunity Palatnikov gave him. He slickly passed from guard to half guard to full mount and then, when Palatnikov gave up his back, Brahimaj sank a nasty choke. The 28-year-old Brahimaj is a welterweight to watch.
Kelvin Gastelum: My feelings about Kelvin Gastelum, stepping in to face Jared Cannonier were mixed. On one hand, I thought it was a calculated risk to get back into the top of the division. On the other hand, I didn’t like Gastelum’s chances of winning. I thought his chin gave him a chance at victory. I also believed Cannonier would have to make a mistake or that his cardio would need to fail for Gastelum to get the win. Gastelum’s chin held up, but Cannonier did not falter.
Gastelum, at 29, is now 1-5 in his last six outings.
Chase Sherman: Much of the talk during the heavyweight matchup between Chase Sherman and Parker Porter focused on the terrible body language of Chase Sherman, that’s always a bad sign. Sherman lost the fight by unanimous decision.
Luis Saldana: Luis Saldana was relaxed and confident in the first five minutes of his bout opposite Austin Lingo. He hurt Lingo with various techniques to various targets in the first stanza, but his cardio faded and an injured foot seemed to get most of his attention as the fight wore on. Saldana had a skill advantage in this bout, but he didn’t have the heart of his opponent and that was the major reason he dropped a decision to Lingo.
Domingo Pilarte: Domingo Pilarte was far too willing to sit in guard and get punched in the head on the ground for most of his fight opposite Brian Kelleher. Pilarte did not seem to have a backup plan when his grappling failed.
Bea Malecki: Bea Malecki had massive advantages in height and reach over her opponent, Josiane Nunes and it looked as if she did not know what to do with those physical edges.
Roosevelt Roberts: Roosevelt Roberts suffered the first knockout loss of his career and it’s one we are going to see a lot of for the rest of 2021 as the spinning kick from Ignacio Bahamondes that put him down and out will probably be a candidate for “Knockout of the Year.”
Roosevelt is now winless in his past three outings. He displayed a good jab in this fight, but outside of that technique, he had little to offer.
UFC Vegas 34 viewers: The prelims offered some exciting bouts with a number of spectacular finishes, but after the opening fight of the main card, a fast-paced scrap between Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Royval things slowed down. The pacing of the event did not help either, as the card went deep into the night.
UFC and Endeavor: When the victor of the main event, who was ranked No. 3 in the middleweight division and has 12 UFC fights under his belt, matter-of-factly states he can’t sit and wait for a title shot because he’s “broke,” that’s an indictment of the UFC’s pay structure. The promotion should be ashamed, but it won’t be.